[MARMAM] New publication on adherence with voluntary slow speed requests in California

Jessica Morten - NOAA Affiliate jessica.morten at noaa.gov
Tue Feb 15 11:39:24 PST 2022

Dear MARMAM colleagues,

On behalf of my co-authors, I am pleased to share a new publication in
Frontiers in Marine Science: 'Evaluating Adherence With Voluntary Slow
Speed Initiatives to Protect Endangered Whales' by Jessica Morten, Ryan
Freedman, Jeffrey D. Adams, Jono Wilson, Aliya Rubinstein, and Sean

Abstract is below and a free PDF copy can be downloaded from:

Please reach out with questions or feedback.

Thank you,
Jess Morten

Abstract: Vessel strikes are one of the main threats to large whales
globally and to endangered blue, fin, and humpback whales in California
waters. For over 10 years, NOAA has established seasonal voluntary Vessel
Speed Reduction (VSR) zones off of California and requested that all
vessels 300 gross tons (GT) or larger decrease speeds to 10 knots or less
to reduce the risk of vessel strikes on endangered whales. We offer a
comprehensive analysis quantifying cooperation levels of all vessels ≥ 300
GT from 2010 to 2019 within designated VSR zones using Automatic
Identification Systems (AIS) data. While average speeds of large vessels
have decreased across the years studied, cooperation with voluntary 10-knot
speed reduction requests has been lower than estimated to be needed to
reduce vessel-strike related mortality to levels that do not inhibit
reaching and maintaining optimal sustainable populations. A comparison of
vessel speeds across inactive and active voluntary VSR time periods show a
modest (+ 15%) increase in cooperation from 2017 to 2019. A complementary,
incentive-based VSR program that was started in 2014 and scaled up in 2018
within the region likely improved voluntary VSR cooperation levels, as
participating container and car carrier vessels traveled at lower speeds
during the VSR season than vessels not enrolled in the incentive-based
effort. Comparisons of vessel speeds in the incentive-based VSR program
across inactive and active time periods showed a significant (+ 41%)
increase in cooperation. With cooperation levels for the voluntary VSR
hovering around 50%, and the challenge of funding and sustaining an
incentive-based VSR program, voluntary VSR approaches may be insufficient
to achieve cooperation levels needed to significantly reduce the risk of
vessel strike-related mortality for these federally protected whales,
suggesting that VSR regulations warrant consideration.

*Jessica Morten |* Resource Protection Specialist
Greater Farallones Association & California Marine Sanctuary Foundation
Affiliate with NOAA Channel Islands, Cordell Bank, and Greater Farallones
National Marine Sanctuaries
*jessica.morten at noaa.gov <jessica.morten at noaa.gov>*
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